Sometimes in life, a single instance, a momentary decision, is something we wish we could change. Thinking that if only you had said something else, gone the other way, chosen another path, your life might be completely different. These “what ifs” might haunt us but unless you’re a Time Lord there isn’t much you can do about them. That doesn’t stop us from wondering what life would be like. In a Tribeca Film Festival world premiere, DETOUR takes us on a ride that begs that very notion.
Harper, a seemingly naive law student, obsesses over the idea that his shifty stepfather is somehow involved in the devastating car crash that leaves his mother lying comatose in the hospital. He drowns his suspicions in whiskey and, with little forethought, finds himself suddenly entwined in conversation with a volatile grifter, Johnny, and his stripper companion, Cherry. As daylight breaks and the haziness of promises made becomes clearer, how will Harper handle the repercussions—and the violent duo—on his doorstep?
From director Christopher Smith (Creep, Black Death, Triangle), Detour is a stylized noir throwback with a trio of lead performances by of-the-moment actors: Tye Sheridan (Mud, The Tree of Life), Emory Cohen (Brooklyn) and Bel Powley (Diary of a Teenage Girl). Utilizing a unique split-narrative structure to tell his tale of deception and murder, Smith takes his audience on a twisty, thrilling ride, where it’s never quite clear what or whom can be trusted.
The cast, comprised of Hollywood’s young up and comers Tye Sheridan, Emory Cohen, and Bel Powley, make this noir throwback as successful as it is. With suspicion and grief fueled motives and a $20,000 agreement, murder and mayhem are the goal. Powley, coming off her extraordinary breakout performance in Diary Of A Teenage Girl, is a stunning presence on screen. Caught somewhere between girl next door and Middle American white-trash, her quiet strength and sympathetic nature make the character of Cherry more intriguing than one might think. Emory Cohen, who was completely unrecognizable from his appearance in Brooklyn, takes on the role of Johnny with vigor. With a badass exterior, and hair trigger temper, Cohen’s best moments are built in fear and protection. Tye Sheriden‘s Harper is whip smart and more cunning than at first glance. This young man is so incredibly comfortable in his own skin, he probably could have played Johnny had he and Cohen’s wardrobe’s been reversed.
Writer/Director Christopher Smith‘s script is sharp. While I knew about the multi-narrative plot going in, I wasn’t expecting to have to remain on my toes as much as I did. In fact, when I initially left the theater, I waxed poetic with a colleague for a good 25 minutes. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the glorious look of the film. Shot on wide-angle lenses in South Africa (which is skillfully made to look like a road trip from America to just across the border into Mexico), Smith’s choices of color and set dressing are key to the ever so slight differentiation in the two narratives. I completely agree with producer Julie Baines, who I was fortunate enough to run into during interviews, who backed up the notion that once you’ve seen the film for the first time, you’ll want to go back and follow the breadcrumbs knowing what you now know. That is exactly how I felt the morning after. I needed to see it again. Baines also reinforced the infectious chemistry between the three leads, both on and off the screen. Think a more complex version of Sliding Doors with a noir aspect. Detour is aptly named.
I was able to sit down with Tye, Emory and Chris over the weekend. You can listen to a spirited and totally down-to-earth interview below. Ladies and Gentleman, Tye Sheridan, Emory Cohen, and Christopher Smith on their new film DETOUR… (and other musings). Enjoy!
Remaining screenings at the fest are Rush only, but definitely worth trying to check out now!